While ultra-Conservative British MP Jacob Rees-Mogg – tipped as a possible successor to PM Theresa May – expresses vehement opposition to abortion under any circumstance and to same-sex marriage, Australia stands ready to ‘matrimonialise’ its citizens’ gay unions.
DAVID ARMSTRONG, a former eminent editor of The Australian currently living the life of the un-retired in Thailand, explains why he now urges a ‘Yes’ vote to the nationwide, non-binding referendum now underway.
I WAS SLOW to accept same-sex marriage. Until about four years ago I held a traditional view of what marriage meant, although, I hope, not a troglodyte view of gay/lesbian people and gay/lesbian relationships. My view before then was a conventional one that had been ‘the common view’ for a long time.
I finished school in 1964 when early ’60s Sydney – at least in what we might regard as the ‘arty’ circles surrounding folk clubs, coffee shops and the like – was just beginning to use the word ‘gay’.
We had schoolmates whom we thought were obviously gay but people mostly didn’t ‘come out’ in those days: for one thing, homosexual acts were illegal and where I lived that didn’t change until 1984. For another, the risk of being bashed would have been high.
Even a decade later anti-gay feeling was commonplace. In the early ’70s a gay guy tried to pick me up at a bus stop. I declined his invitation but I mentioned it later to a colleague who was about the same age as I was.
His only response was to ask, “Did ya job him?”
Naturally, generational change has bred different, more tolerant attitudes. My change of heart began almost exactly.four years ago after a conversation over dinner with a gay man.
We hadn’t met before but we had known of one another for a long time. He was younger than me and had made public his sexual orientation while still at school (a quite well-known Catholic school).
He didn’t seem to think I was weird or evil for being behind current thinking on the gay issue. He patiently explained his view and set it in the wider context of the collective aspirations of so many gay people.
That started the process of changing my mind; it gathered pace under the influence of two Catholic priests. Both believe that as legalising same-sex marriage involves a change to civil law and does not affect Church law, the Church has no business interfering with the process
One persuaded me of the inevitability of change, a key point being the increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage by Australians generally. The other priest regarded same-sex marriage as simply right and normal. I was impressed not so much by anything he said, for he said very little on the subject, but by his attitude.
The complication in Australia came about with the 2004 parliamentary vote defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. Even gays in the Labor Party ended up supporting that definition, having been unable to sway enough of their own colleagues.
That was not so very long ago. There was some debate about whether civil unions – like marriage but not marriage – could apply to gay couples. And that led to the demand for marriage equality.
I can’t take part in the Australian Government’s marriage survey as I don’t live in the country and am no longer registered as a voter.
If I could, I would say Yes.